Friday, August 29, 2014

Simple Living

My boy friend thinks I’m slightly crazy. I have this habit of reading some awe inspiring books, and then implementing rapid change into my life to “improve” it. As you can imagine this results in some weird, but some times helpful things like starting to journal, creating a dream board, booking a random and overseas trip. This time I stumbled upon this book called “The power of less” by Leo Babauta. It’s not the first time I’ve read interesting reads that dabbled in this concept of choosing to having less.

I often challenged myself by imagining moving away from Sydney to somewhere remote (preferably warm and next to the beach) with only two suitcases in hand. Could I do it?

Well lets just say the idea is enticing but scares the hell out of me… I think I have developed my mother’s hoarding qualities.

Something in this last book tipped me over the edge though. Living with less is a book about a guy who was in debt up to his eyeballs. So much so he was at risk of losing the family home. You know what they say, when times get tough people get resourceful, and resourceful is exactly what he became.

He began to sell of things around the house. He cut back to only essential spending and with each sale, even if it was only $5 he put it back into paying off his debt.

I started to look around my house and my room.  Remembering the money spent actually made me feel guilty. So many clothes and shoes I don’t even wear. Again this is a topic I have discussed on this blog a number of times, but it never occurred to me what to do about it. I always donated my old clothes to charity. But donations doesn’t make my money come back and it makes me want to still hold on to things I love, but don’t want to just give away. 

Tip 1 sell stuff on the internet.

I never thought people would buy your old junk off the internet. As I found out indeed they do, they certainly bought mine!

My big-ticket items like gym equipment and furniture have already gone. The house and my room are looking open, fresh and clean. Each sale has been cathartic and I like what I am feeling with this departure of stuff in my life.

 If someone else is using the things I don’t want or use, it makes me happy. Making some money back is a bonus too.

This concept of simplifying life is really relieving. In the end, in life it’s only you who has to be happy, its about doing things that are important to you. Figuring out what makes you happy and getting rid of the materialistic rubbish we think will make us happy but never does.

For me shopping I thought was enjoyable, but I have come to realise I do it when I feel anxious, lonely or bored. They are certainly not emotions of joy.

With this realisation I decided I don’t need so much stuff. Over flowing wardrobes do not allow you to use a variety of your clothing because you can’t always see what you’ve got. You end up wearing the same things over and over again because it’s easy to pick the first thing you see.

Last week I did the biggest cull of my wardrobe in my life. I’ve culled before, but this time I actually included things that I bought over seas, items I liked looking at, but never wore.

I don’t know how that even happens?

Imagine bringing clothes back from Spain, New York and Brazil, as prized possessions.  When back at home they sit there in the wardrobe staring at you. Lucky I was never into souvenirs!

My next task is to take all these personal items to the market to sell. I’ve grouped them into $5 and $10 piles. But every now and then I’ve been sneaking back and picking out things to place back into my wardrobe because “one day ill wear that again”… it’s a frustrating process.

*Sigh* you must fight against illogical impulses at the best of times…

I’ve even toyed with the idea of living off the grid for a while. Living in complete isolation doesn’t require material possessions and it would potentially have a better view than my office window. Except, I like the internet too much. Maybe I could live off the grid in the amazon jungle somewhere and still have Wifi? Something tells me that would defeat the purpose though.

I discovered today the phase I’m actually going through is called “voluntary simplicity” do not mistake it for poverty. It’s about teaching yourself to be content with less, so you can do more with your life than just work for more crap to accumulate in your house.

 I actually knew a girl once from the gym 35years old, who sold up shop and moved to a secluded beach off the Cuban coast. She practiced her Spanish a few times with me before leaving. I follow her on Facebook and to this day I am immensely jealous that she lives on the beach, doesn’t have to wear shoes and works only 4 hours a day in a local vegetarian cafĂ©. Most of the time she spends her days sitting on the beach taking photos of the sun set.

I could do that, I just have to get over the anxiety of not living up to societies expectations to do all this stuff your meant to do.

And that’s all it is, anxiety and fear…

For now I’ve done the first step, down grading massively. I still have a lot of materialistic junk though, and my car, biggest bugbear is my stupid car. I love it and hate it all at the same time! Did I tell you it has leather seats? First time ever in my life have I had such a lovely car.

A long-standing dream would be to have no car and cycle everywhere with a cane basket attached to the front of my bike, like they do in Europe. Unfortunately riding from my house to the city with a girly bicycle would take me about 6 hours.

Car it is for now and I’ll keep dreaming.

My next step is to convince my boy friend to want to live off the grid with me in Costa Rica, maybe he can learn some Spanish too?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How To Detect A Fad Diet Using My BS Barometer

The internet is a dangerous place for miss-information and fad dieting. It’s not surprising that the weird concoctions of drinks and potions spread like wild fire on social media. These spicy food trends come and go like the wind, this month it’s Paleo, tomorrow it’s drinking green juices, heck why don’t we just combine them into “clean eating”. lol

As history outlines these diets just rehash themselves in a 10year rotation anyway, yes Paleo diets where popular in the 70’s.

It’s tough environment for consumers because just like the recent Bulletproof coffee trend its backed by good looking people with six pack abs and celebrity endorsements. If you don’t know what Bulletproof coffee is my article is coming out on the 14th September, it’s tipped to make global headlines literally. It’s featuring on the front cover of Fitness First magazine next month.

Even clothing companies have vested interest in nutrition these days…

Anyway my point is these food fads can be very bad for your health and there is no scientific evidence to back up the claims they promote. I know, what you’re going to say insert *Paleo, *Bulletproof coffee, *clean eating, (whatever current craze your on at the moment)…

“It worked for me”

Sure it did… what other things were you also doing? Cutting back calories, better eating choices, exercising? You were probably doing a lot more things than just adding Bulletproof coffee OR starting some random diet to lose that weight.

Nothing shits me more that seeing people follow things blindly

Excuse the French, but seriously people last time I looked at an anatomy textbook I’m pretty sure we all were given a brain to think with.

It shits me because I really believe people are smarter than that. I am saying you are far more intelligent than to fall for marketing tricks over and over again. You just need the skills to detect the rubbish.

This is my BS (bull shit) barometer. Use these forward thinking questions to determine if something is not what it claims to be.

Answer YES or NO to the following:

  •   Is someone making a crap load of money out of selling you this product?

Often there is an agenda behind promoting certain products or diets. Self appointed guru’s, trying to flog off books, pills and clothing, you name it! Keep your wallets safe and browse the web with your credit card locked safely away.

  •   Do the health claims sound too good to be true?

You know what they say, there is no magic pill or diet for weight loss and if there was, don’t you think we’d all be doing it too?

  • Do marketing claims go against what leading health authorities recommend, like the Heart Foundation, World Health Organisation and professional bodies like Dietitian's Association?

There is a reason why every country across the globe has the same dietary recommendations. It’s because everyone has drawn similar conclusions to research papers across the globe. They didn’t just read the ones they liked either (cherry picking). Health authorities across the globe don’t share notes either, we are not all in cahoots.

  • Is there a celebrity endorsement, or some pretty awesome before and after shots- probably Photoshopped?

Did you know that medical and allied health professionals are not allowed to use testimonials or before and after shots. For the sole reason that it is misleading, unethical and easily manipulated by computer imaging. 

  •  Do they misinterpret scientific studies?

This one is a funny one, websites or articles written by some guy who thinks he’s a guru or tried it on themselves is not scientific evidence. This is the n=1 theory “It worked for me, it must be true!”.  That can’t be far more from the truth than believing that the grass is coloured orange. People have good genetics, do extreme amounts of exercise and a lot more things than they say they do.  Read the scientific papers they use to pedal the fads, half the time it totally works against their argument anyway. Reading comprehension is lacking in most self appointed nutrition gurus - Back to school for you!

  • What is the context in which it worked?

Bulletproof coffee was invented by a famous mountain climber who climbed in the Alps and drank yak milk to survive. Yak milk apparently is almost pure fat.  There is no other food available at those mountain temperatures… sadly wheat doesn’t grow in minus 30 degrees! Mountain climbers expend thousands of calories a day climbing mountains. You are sitting on your butt all day typing on the computer – NOT the same!

  •  How long can you keep it up for?

Yes quitting sugar is easy, staying quit without developing an eating disorder is a lot harder than you think.

  • Do they claim a conspiracy theory?

Like I said in point 3 all health professionals are not in cahoots, believe it or not we actually help people improve their health every day of our working lives. As for the government and it’s conspiracy to keep us sick to make money. Don’t you think they rather spend taxpayer’s money on buying expensive bottles of wine and funding personal overseas holidays than pay our billions of dollars worth of Medicare and PBS health care bills?

  •  Do they have nutrition qualifications?

When I say this I mean that short Tafe or college course in nutrition doesn’t make you a nutrition guru. Also like any job, experience working in the nutrition industry speaks volumes. N=1 observations from your own life doesn’t give you nutrition qualifications either.

How many YES responses did you score on the BS barometer?

<3             Seems ok I’d be weary though. Any sign of weird stuff get the hell out

4-6            Yup this is defiantly a fad, careful though if you read too much about it you might get brain washed too. It all starts with a YouTube link to a disgruntled retired medical professional who’s been living off the grid for a while, close your lap top and take some deep breaths.

>7              Run for the hills this is a scam, hook, line and sinker! If you join their Facebook page you might get trolled!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dealing With Anxiety

Let me start by saying everyone has some sort of issue, either it be with their physical health, mental health, sociability etc and I am not immune either. Although I have escaped the common physical health dilemmas of modern living I do suffer from anxiety from time to time. 
Damn, finally I have to admit, I am not super human after all. This anxiety thing emerged out of nowhere. One day I was “normal” the next day I was frozen in shock crying. I was scared because I couldn’t breathe properly my body tensed up, I didn’t know what was happening to me. It was my first anxiety attack.
It’s actually astonishing how many people are affected by anxiety. For a lot of people it can be very debilitating for every day life and others it’s only a mildly uncomfortable feeling that’s for the most part unexplained.
My introduction to in my first major attack actually ended up with me calling the ambulance because I thought I was having a heart attack at the ripe old age of 21…
Since then it emerges in the weirdest places. For example talking to some one new at a salsa night. It hit me so hard it took my breath away. These days is a lot less severe, unless something is seriously a miss… like my car engine light turning on down the free way and I’m no where near the mechanic! Panic stations all around!!
This actually happened just last week. Even though the car was still ok, it was enough for me to dump the car at the nearest train station and train it into the meeting I was trying not to be late for. Needless to say all the angst after the meeting, I drove it straight to the mechanic and now its fixed. When I can't explain things, or fix things I know nothing about – cars for example. That causes me a lot of stress.
Over the years I have learnt to deal with it and control it a lot more. Which is useful, nothing worse than having all eyes on you for big talking events and all of a sudden you decide “flip out”. Speaking gigs usually never cause me grief.  On occasion when there are a few big things riding on my shoulders, mainly other people expectations, lets just say I hide the nerves very well.
What generally happens first is I feel as if my breath racing away from me. Its laboured breathing like I’m running, but most of the time I’m standing still. I hate feeling out of breath, that’s part of the reason why I like to stay fit. When I get out of breath my first thought is “what’s wrong with me?”.
Anxiety is often causes by racing thoughts, a reflex reaction to certain situations that can be both conscious and subconscious. For me it started unconsciously, now it’s definitely a thought process and situational. It is a nervous system response to do with out fight or flight survival systems. Except in this case the survival system goes in hyper drive leaving you stunned like a dear in head lights, rather than doing anything constructive.
This is how I deal with it:
1.     I stop everything and take long deep breaths. This helps to re-gain control of the nervous systems stress response, 5 seconds inhale, 5 seconds to exhale.  Repeat this till your breath has slowed and the panic has reduced.
2.     Stop fidgeting. This exacerbates the nervousness. Follow step 1 breath and stop everything
3.     Once the breath has slowed significantly, this may take a few minutes. Start talking to yourself. Ask yourself for an explanation as to why are you feeling like this? It’s time to let your logical mind do the talking and sooth the part of you who is panicking. Talk to yourself nicely and find out what is really going on.
4.     Tell yourself it’s going to be ok. I reassure myself that its just a little bit of anxiety and that it will pass. Acknowledging it for what it is helps. It makes you feel like your not going crazy.
5.     Tackle your anxiety head on. The more you expose yourself to anxiety causing situations and breathe your way out of it, the more you will become desensitised to certain situations. This doesn’t mean I’m never going to get my car serviced again, till the engine light comes on. Only do this step if the anxiety is caused by normal every day situations. A lot of people suffer anxiety from trying to eat certain foods or talking with people in day-to-day life. This is where exposure therapy really helps.
I have found more and more people are experiencing anxiety around; food, social situations, work and personal life. With the fast paced environment we live in and competing time demands, it’s no wonder it’s on the rise.

I hope this little blog post helps all of you out there with your anxiety too. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, everyone has their own issues and so do I. Learning to manage it and take care of your self is a more productive and positive way to help yourself. Now breathe… inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and relax…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

HITT vs The Fat Burning Zone

Weight loss workout options are endless. Two of the most popular training methods that have taken gyms by storm, is training in the fat burning zone and HITT. Considering you can decide between Tabata style classes, boxing rounds, group exercise classes or a continuous walk on the treadmill, some times it gets confusing as to which one to choose.
The biggest weight loss training myth is sticking to fat burning zone during all of your workouts. Training in the fat burning zone is great as part of a weight loss regime, however sticking exclusively to this zone inhibits serious training adaptations. Workouts in the fat burning zone targets you’re your heart rate at 55-65% of your heart rate max, which is a level where you barely break a sweat. 
Training in this zone is popular because at lower exercise intensities the body burns fat as fuel rather than using carbohydrates. At 50% of your max heart rate, your body burns a ratio of 60% fat to 40% glycogen (carbs). As the intensities decrease, the rate of fat utilised increases. At rest even while you sleep you have the highest usage of fat. However, as you know, you don’t burn many calories while you sleep!
The reason why you don't want to be working out in the fat burning zone all the time is because of the lack of calories you burn. You burn a lot more immediate calories when you workout intensely, than you do at lower levels. In addition to this when you exercise in the fat burning zone you burn less calories post training. 
The after burn effect post exercise is caused by an increase in metabolism from putting your body under a significant amount of strain. The fat burning zone is not intense enough to get much of a change in metabolic rate, it's also not an efficient way to burn fat, not to mention it's time consuming!
To burn 200 calories in a work out you would have to treadmill walk for 110minutes, compared to 35min minutes if you were running at a higher intensity. The problem is not everyone can workout intensely all the time, this is where HITT training may be useful.
High intensity interval training  (HITT) is very popular because it has shown to be very successful in producing weight loss and increasing fitness in a short period of time. Lots of regimes have been tried for example 7minute workouts with short 10second intervals, or in other cases 4minute intervals for cardiac hospitalised patients.
There are many variations of what is considered an interval. Some cycling programs use short intervals of 20-30 seconds of hard work, whereas others like circuit, running or martial art based training consist of intervals between 3-4 minutes.
Recovery periods in these programs are also varied lasting from 15-90 seconds. There are no hard and fast rules with length of interval and rest periods, which makes it highly adaptable for all levels of fitness. 
The only thing you have to decide is your training goal. If you want to eventually run marathons longer intervals would be best to build up your endurance capacity. If you don’t like exercising and want to get it over and done with, 30second intervals will give you the healthy adaptations you need without it feeling like a hard slog.
HITT is very effective because it allows you to stress the cardiovascular system and build lean muscle. This means your adaptations to training will be greater than working at lower intensities. The only down fall is that its very difficult to do every day at full capacity. 
In addition to this it’s not suitable for everyone. Anyone with a medical condition should only attempt HITT under medical supervision by a physician or exercise physiologist. Before starting check with your doctor to see if it's a suitable option for you. Training at this high level is high risk and should be treated with caution. Learn about any early warning signs you may experience during intense exercise.
A combination of steady state cardio such as moderate intensity jogging for 30min continuously, HITT training a few times a week and low grade fat burning activity on active rest days, will give you a well rounded fitness regime. Varied routines with varying intensities will give you great fitness adaptations and fat burning, without leaving you feel exhausted and burnt out.
The key to increasing fitness and weight loss is to keep your body guessing, use variations in your workouts and add in some resistance training to keep your body adapting and burning calories.
When we repeat workouts for more than 6-8 weeks, your body adapts and becomes very efficient at using fuel, which ultimately means we burn fewer calories. Aim to keep it fresh, mix up machines, levels, speeds and intensities for the best training outcomes. 
Ultimately however, in a weight loss training plan aim to choose an activity you somewhat enjoy. It may be the music in a class, the social nature of the group or the sunshine beaming on your face as you pound the pavement. Find something that’s going to make you stick with it. Doing something you hate because it burns the most amount of fat, is rarely sustainable.